Relay Remembers Long-Time Beach Patrol Captain

Kylie Joson

Staff Writer

OCEAN CITY – Many would
cringe at the phrase, “21-mile swim-run relay”, but that is just the way the
Ocean City Beach Patrol celebrates the contributions of former Beach Patrol
Captain George Schoepf.

Last Sunday, June 13 the
OCBP hosted the Annual Captain Schoepf Relay at 10 a.m. The vintage steel buoy
took 5 hours, 58 minutes and 14 seconds to be relayed the full circle of Ocean
City. This memorial relay is held every year on the Sunday closest to June 11,
to honor the contribution of Schoepf’s many years of service.

Before the relay kicked
off, Captain Butch Arbin led a prayer.

“It was the best
memorial yet,” said daughter Kerry Schoepf, who has been coming to the relay
each year since in started in 1998. She attributed the success of this years
relay to her two sons that started the relay and to the various OCBP alumni
members that traveled as far as Florida to participate.

The presence of family
members, including his wife, Joanie Schoepf, daughter, Kerry Schoepf, and the
two grandsons, Jesi and Mitch, gave a different meaning to the event.

“My son Jesi was
diagnosed with leukemia on March 20 of last year,” Kerry said. “He and my other
son wanted to run this race in honor of all the people who lost a battle to
cancer, people who are fighting the battle, and people who won the battle.”

Schoepf died of colon
cancer on June 11, 1997.

The relay began at 7th
Street on the beach, which was Schoepf’s old stand. They used a vintage steal
buoy instead of the modern plastic ones because that is what they used back
when Schoepf was a guard.

The relay started off in
a special way this year. Schoepf’s grandson, Jesi, began the race, who then
handed the buoy off to his brother, Mitch. After both grandsons ran their leg,
the buoy was then handed off to the alumni members that come each year to
participate. After the veterans finished their run the buoy was then handed off
to current beach patrol lifeguards, who ran the buoy to the inlet and then swam
it out into the water at the rock jetty. The buoy was then passed along in the
ocean until it reached the Delaware line where it re-entered the beach and was
relayed on foot to 7th street.

“The idea is to mix old
and new to bring it all together. It’s symbolism but it really has a purpose,”
Arbin said.

Schoepf served as
captain of the Ocean City Beach Patrol from 1987-1996, although his leadership
role on the beach patrol was quite extensive. It was Schoepf’s idea to divide
the patrol into crews. The idea of an annual crew competition was also
Schoepf’s. The competition was a good public relations tool with visitors who
had a chance to see the various abilities of the guards in running and
swimming.

In 1980, the Ocean City
Beach Patrol formed a local chapter of the United States Life Saving
Association. Three years later under the direction of Schoepf, the Ocean City
chapter began hosting regional competitions. Schoepf was given the complete
responsibility for setting up and running the USLA Mid-Atlantic Championships.

This year the regional
competition will be held in Ocean City on July 14 where over 200 lifeguards
from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia,
Washington, DC, and West Virginia competing. This will be the largest lifeguard
competition that Ocean City has hosted in nearly 20 years.

When I asked Arbin what
he thought Scheopf would think about this competition, he said, “he brought it
here to begin with and he would say ‘its about time we got it back on our home
turf.’

 

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